Here's a different way to look at Phillies rebuild
by Scott Butler 3/29/17

Spring training drill 2017

Opening Day is less than a week away! How will the Phillies do this season? Can they reach .500?  Will they finish higher than the Braves and Marlins? Will they surprise everyone like in 1993? The possibilities are endless. It's part of what makes Opening Day so great.

So why is my brain still way more focused on the R-word (rebuild) than it is on the actual season?

I'll tell you why.  It’s because this season doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. Klentak knows it. MacPhail knows it. Mackanin knows it. And so do the players. Sure, it would be nice to see them win, but that's not my focus this season. My attention is more on what happens up the turnpike in Lehigh Valley (and to a lesser extent in Reading) - what transpires there is way more important than anything that occurs in South Philly.

So how long will this rebuild take? If you can tell me what happens in the next five years with Crawford, Alfaro, Williams, Quinn, Joseph, Velasquez, Thompson, Eflin, Appel, Kingery, and Cozens, just to name a few (OK, a lot), I’ll have a really good answer for you. 

But who even has  the first clue about which players will be part of the future and which ones won’t? Every top prospect has something that makes them stand out as a potential impact player. We can talk about swing paths and exit velocity and spin rates and all sorts of metrics, but it's still a guess. Even for Joe Jordan and the top scouts it is still just a bunch of dart throwing.

Rather than arguing over who we think can make it, how about looking at who won’t make it? History tells us the second group will be much larger than the first. I love Alfaro’s raw power and Crawford’s discipline and Quinn’s speed and Velasquez’s rifle arm.  I think each of those players has a real chance to be a big part of the future - that’s usually what I tell people when they ask me about rebuild timeframes. But forget about what you hope happens because it won’t play out that way. 

Instead, I want you to pick two players from that group of 12 who will become All-Stars and one more player who will become a regular player because statistically speaking, that is how many will survive. Yes, that means you must pick nine players from that list and toss them away. Nine players who will become 2017's version of Brandon Duckworth.

That can't be right.

Well, it is if we base our projections on Phillies drafts over the last dozen years. Of the players selected by the Phillies in the first round of the 2000 through 2011 drafts, two players (Utley and Hamels) became All-Stars and one other player (Gavin Floyd) became a decent major leaguer. That's a 25% success rate. If we combine all players from the first three rounds, that rate drops to 19% - the Phillies had 7 total players who became regulars (adding Travis d'Arnaud, Cameron Rupp, Adam Morgan, and J.A. Happ) in the first three rounds of those drafts. Even if we consider all of the prospects listed as first rate talents, 1 out of 4 is not a promising number.

Here is a list of where some prospects were drafted (some by other teams):

J.P. Crawford 1st round

Zach Eflin 1st round

Mark Appel - 1st round

Jesmuel Valentin 1st round

Tommy Joseph - 2nd round

Vince Velasquez - 2nd round

Nick Williams 2nd round

Roman Quinn 2nd round

Jake Thompson 2nd round

Scott Kingery 2nd round

Dylan Cozens 2nd round

Ben Lively 26th round

Jorge Alfaro - amateur free agent

You can also take a peak at my Phillies drafts page.

Obviously there are some serious flaws to my "deep statistical analysis" and it's possible that the rate increases if you run it over the entire league, but probably not by much, if at all. Philadelphia fans are nothing if they aren't optimistic, so let's go with a whopping five of those 12 players that make it (42%). In that scenario, I'm choosing Crawford, Alfaro, Velasquez, Eflin, and Kingery. It might be a callous approach, But it could actually make predicting the path of this rebuild a little easier.

Let's start by penciling in Hernandez and Franco, as the two regulars in the future-state Phillies and Eickhoff and Nola (who is certainly not a given to be a long-term solution) as two of the starting pitchers. If we add Alfaro at catcher, Crawford at short, and Kingery at second, that leaves two regular positions to fill. On the pitching side (ignoring the bullpen) we would have Eickhoff, Nola, Velasquez, and Eflin, leaving one pitcher to add via other means. In the glass half-full scenario, the Phillies only need to add a total of three players to their roster and they serious compete next season. In the more likely scenario, they need five additional players and don't seriously compete until 2019.

Obviously that is a totally random scenario, but it seems to me like an easier way to gauge where we really are in this rebuild thing.

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